Setting goals at work is sometimes more challenging than accomplishing them. In a business environment that's dynamic and unpredictable, and where no two days are the same, goal-setting becomes even more important in keeping your team laser-focused.
Writing actionable goals ensures that you, as a leader, have total control and visibility over your team’s progress. How can you set effective work goals? How do you ensure that what you write is clear, achievable, inspirational, and easy to understand?
We got the answers figured out for you. Today, we will give you 7 different work goals examples and guide you through the process of creating them for the benefit of your own team.
1. Reflect on past goals
Is there a greater teacher than experience? Use your previous examples of work goals as your starting point, as your guide for what needs to change.
The advantage of knowing how that goal performed allows you to spot thinking patterns, the way you approached it and the reasons why it was successful or underperformed.
In the diagram below, we have created a simple 5-step reflection process you can filter your goals through. Follow these steps and your previous attempts at setting goals will immediately turn into useful fuel for the new ones.
2. Plan goals in quarters
Goals can exist in many different forms: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly. The question that arises is obvious: Which one do you choose, and why? The answer is quarterly and here is why.
Breaking down an annual goal into quarters allows you the perfect time-span to not only execute your work goals, but also see whether they yield any results.
Don’t confuse tasks with goals. What you set out to accomplish on a daily and weekly basis can only be considered as tasks contributing towards your goals.
Think of it as the relationship between streams, a river and the ocean. Streams flow into the river which in turn ends up in the ocean. Streams are your tasks, the river is the quarterly goals and the ocean are the annual goals. The one feeds into the other.
In the picture below, you can see a visualization of how to go about writing goals for work.
3. Make goal-setting a team exercise
The difference between a good leader and a great leader is that the former sets work goals for their team whereas the latter sets goals with their team.
Team leaders that include team members in the process have a lot more to learn and a much higher probability to succeed.
The reasoning is simple. Opening the floor to your team creates a constant feedback loop, sharpening and polishing the outcome every time. It broadens and strengthens the communication channel between you and your team as team members now feel they are working towards a goal they were involved in creating.
Refer to the example below to visualize the process.
4. Initiate cross-team collaboration
Internal business structures come in various forms but one could argue that the modern workspace operates in independent, self-sufficient teams. What that means, is that sometimes teams might get lost in their own goals, alienating themselves from the rest of the teams and departments.
In the previous example, we talked about opening the floor to your team. In this example, we’re suggesting you take it a step further and factor in the goals of other teams.
Talk to other team leaders and see whether some of the goals overlap. By doing so you’ll avoid duplicating work, you’ll assign resources in a more appropriate way and you’ll be able to initiate cross-team collaboration if necessary.
5. Set milestones/checkpoints
When planning a roadtrip, an essential part of the itinerary are pit stops. No matter how bad you want to reach your destination, making small stops to rest, refuel, gather your thoughts and energy, are customary.
Setting goals follows very similar principles. The road to achieving these goals is long and so it’s of paramount importance to set some checkpoints where you’re assess progress, make adjustments if necessary and recenter focus and energy towards the initial goal
A great way of doing this is by arranging weekly check-ins. A simple and quick 15-20 minute meeting could prove to be invaluable in accomplishing the goals set at the beginning of the quarter. The meeting is a great opportunity to resolve any problems that came up during the week, share learnings and outline priority plans for the coming week.
Setting goals is not a one-time exercise. It’s a living organism you need to feed with energy, update it with progress and ensure that you are staying true to it.
6. Be specific
Work goals can very easily become vague, general and in the end, unachievable. One of the best examples on how to set work goals is doing your absolute best to be specific.
“We want the company to be successful” is an example of a goal that is anything but specific. Using our road trip analogy from earlier, when setting non-specific work goals, it’s like announcing to your family that you are going to…Texas.
Texas is one of the biggest states in the United States. Where in Texas are you heading to? What city? Even better, what address? “We want the company to be the most recognizable brand in our field” is a much more specific goal. It’s a destination that teams can plan the route to.
7. Communicate goals in a clear manner
Another great example of setting work goals is being able to communicate them to the team in an efficient manner. Quite often, ideas and goals make perfect sense in our head but when it’s time to share them with a crowd, they sound clunky and incomplete.
Here’s what you can do to avoid this. Before you share your goal with the team, make sure that it answers the following questions:
- What? (The actual goal)
- Why? (You want to achieve this goal because …)
- Which? (Resources and skills that I need …)
- Who? (Who will do the work? The team)
- When? (Timeline/deadline for the goal)
- How? (Steps/plan to achieve it)
Answering these questions is a great way to ensure that the goals you have in mind are as ready as they can be in their draft version, before sharing them and improving them with your team.
Setting work goals isn't easy, but it is worth it in the end
Setting work goals is not easy. Our examples were aimed at giving you different parameters of the goal-setting process, alerting you to all the things you need to be mindful of.
Goal-setting requires a sustainable framework that allows leaders and teams to track, manage and fine-tune goals along the way. A framework that ticks all of the 7 boxes discussed above is the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology. A quick read-through will show you how setting a work goal can become much easier and way more effective.